Swallowed by hippo: Man recounts surviving hippo attack

A river guide in Africa was swallowed by a hippo—and lived to tell the tale.

When Paul Templer was 27, he ran a river tour taking tourists down the Zambezi river, along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. His story appeared in The Guardian's "Experience" series on Friday.

Templer knew his attacker—he'd learned to avoid the territory of the two-ton hippo after a few half-hearted attacks. He was nearing the end of a tour when the boat of one of his apprentice guides was lifted out of the water.

Templer paddled over and tried to rescue the guide, named Evans, but he too was tossed into the water. He was engulfed in darkness, but he could tell that his top half was almost dry while his legs were surrounded by water.

"There was a terrible, sulfurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest," he told The Guardian.

Templer wriggled free and swam towards Evans but the hippo dragged him back under. The hippo tossed him into the air multiple times, catching him each time and puncturing with its huge tusks and slicing incisors.

Then everything went still.

"I remember looking up through 10 feet of water…Blood rose from my body in clouds, and a sense of resignation overwhelmed me," he said.

Then the hippo spat him out.

One of his fellow guides pulled him from the water, his arm crushed to a pulp and blood pouring from the wounds in his chest. One wound was so bad, Templer's lung was visible.

The guide sealed the wounds with a snack wrapper then found a nearby medical team on an emergency drill. The team treated him as best they could before taking him to a hospital.

Templer ended up losing his left arm, but doctors were able to save his life, he said.

Evans' body was found down river two days later. Attempts were made to find and kill the rogue hippo, but the beast apparently went into hiding.

While Templer was leading another expedition down the Zambezi two years later, a huge hippo lurched out of the water next to his canoe before diving back under.

"I'd bet my life savings it was the same hippo," Templer said, "determined to have the final word."

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